Recently we have had a group of tamariki transition through to school from us here at Four Seasons and we thought that perhaps others might be curious about what we do here at Four Seasons Kindergarten to plan for a responsive and supported pathway to school.

This was in fact an internal review question for us back in 2017/18. We looked at our current practices, and areas where we could plan for improvement. Our aim is to form strong, responsive, reciprocal, and respectful relationships with whanau and with schools new entrant kaiako.  Supporting tamaiti and whanau sense of wellbeing is important to us during the transition to school time.

“Te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere;
Te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōna te ao”
“The bird who partakes of the miro berry owns the forest;
The bird who partakes of education owns the world”

When a tamaiti is around the age of four and a half, we initiate a ‘tuakana meeting’ with whanau to begin the school conversation.  We listen to parents and whanāu aspirations for their tamaiti and use these when planning for the transition. Our kaiako value the knowledge and expertise that whanāu Māori bring and believe that this supports the wellbeing of all our tamariki.

During the ‘tuakana meeting’ we discuss school zoning, school cohort entry dates, school visits, and together develop a flexible plan for a starting school date. Growing from our kindergarten philosophy of ‘an unhurried approach to childhood’ we encourage a very thoughtful approach to school transition. We support extending the early childhood experience beyond the age of five, to allow for as much maturing and development of social and emotional skills, before starting academics. We encourage whanau to look at starting school at the beginning of the year, or school term, explore the possibility of transitioning with some friends, and becoming familiar with how your local school works.

We have gathered knowledge about all our local school’s new entrant environments and pedagogy.  Whanau organise some school visits with the school, usually in the four weeks leading up to the start date and a kindergarten kaiako will accompany a tamaiti and their whanau on one of the school visits so as to share our love and knowledge of your tamaiti with the new entrant kaiako. We really enjoy these school visits as they give us an opportunity to reconnect with past kindergarten children who have moved onto school earlier in the year and they often rejoice in sharing their newly acquired reading, writing and mathematics skills.

Many schools make it a priority for their new entrant kaiako to visit the local early childhood kindergartens and centres. We really value these visits as a chance for the kaiako to see tamaiti relaxed in their familiar environment, and as an opportunity for the school kaiako to see the environment from which our tamaiti is transitioning.

Te Whariki (2017) is viewed by us as our guiding curriculum document that supports all kaiako and whanāu aspirations for tamariki. Mana whenua (Belonging) asks that children and families feel a sense of belonging and explains further that transitions into and across settings should be thoughtfully planned and should recognise what children bring with them.

Kaiako have developed a template at Four Seasons as a way to share tamaiti particular strengths and their specific interests and areas for growth as part of a learning journey to share with the new entrant kaiako at school. A tamaiti’s voice, needs, and aspirations are recorded in this way in preparation for the transition.  If you’d like a copy of this template, let us know, we’d love to share one with you.

by Fenella Tinworth

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